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The World Without Us
The World Without Us
by Alan Weisman
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Impact of mankind, 20 Dec 2013
This review is from: The World Without Us (Paperback)
Many books - fiction and non-fiction - consider how humankind might be wiped out in some kind of mass extinction. This book considers what would happen to the world afterwards, from the length of time that materials and buildings would last to the fate of nature. The environmental theme is clear - Weisman is concerned about the effect of plastics on the world, not only long after we are gone, but also over the next few hundred years if we remain. There is a very journalistic style to the writing - each chapter starts with a 'hook', which helps the readability, but it jars a little when the author repeatedly describes the experts who he interacts with using throwaway, irrelevant phrases (do I need to know that a particular expert wears shorts and runs marathons?). An interesting exploration of the question about how much humans have impacted the earth during our brief (in geological terms) ascendance.


Gone
Gone
by Michael Grant
Edition: Paperback
Price: 3.85

4.0 out of 5 stars Lord of the Flies with mutant powers, 19 Dec 2013
This review is from: Gone (Paperback)
It's an interesting idea - everybody over the age of 15 goes "poof" and disappears, and the remaining children have to cope without them in a city that is sealed off from the rest of the world. What follows is a Lord of the Flies-esque deterioration of society as the children start to fight amongst themselves, aided by their rapidly-developing mutant powers. As well as the Lord of the Flies influence, there are touches of The Hunger Games (not least in the cover design) and Charlie Higson's Enemy - if you loved either of those series, you'll probably get on with this. I didn't find the action sequences as well written in Gone and occasionally lost the thread of what was going on in the various fights, but I enjoyed this enough to seek out number two in the series - and I'll probably go right through to book six.


Stillness and Speed: My Story
Stillness and Speed: My Story
Price: 1.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Not an traditional autobiography - but still a good read, 19 Dec 2013
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Dennis Bergkamp's autobiography isn't like most football autobiographies. In truth, it isn't really an autobiography! In my mind, it's an authorised biography, not an autobiography. The co-writer has the main 'voice' and Dennis' input - which, admittedly, is substantial - is in the form of extended quotations taken from interviews with the co-writer. Effectively, it makes the book a long magazine-style interview of Bergkamp.

However, that apart, it's still a great and analytical read that probably works well for somebody who had a great playing career but perhaps doesn't have the big, gregarious personality we often associate with great sport autobiographies. There's plenty of input from others involved in his career at Ajax, Inter and Arsenal, and the co-writer seems to understand Bergkamp's career and get down to the key issues - the strife at Ajax, Bergkamp's unhappiness at Inter, the reasons for Arsenal's success.

A couple of quibbles about the Kindle edition - the version that I downloaded was missing a cover image and had a surprising amount of typos that got through proof-reading.


Fateful Choices: Ten Decisions that Changed the World, 1940-1941
Fateful Choices: Ten Decisions that Changed the World, 1940-1941
by Ian Kershaw
Edition: Paperback
Price: 11.99

4.0 out of 5 stars The decisions that led to world war, 18 Dec 2013
Ian Kershaw undoubtedly knows his area of expertise like the back of his hand. In this book, he steps away from his subject of choice - Nazi Germany - to look at the wider Second World War. In particular, Kershaw examines the "fateful choices" made by world leaders during 1940 and 1941. It's an intriguing idea. Many historians and readers will come up with their own list of key decisions and may have a few quibbles with Kershaw's choices - did Stalin really decide to "trust Hitler" in 1941, or was that really a decision from 1939? Also, Kershaw sticks with high foreign policy and doesn't consider too much military history - could there have been a chapter on Hitler deciding to cancel his invasion of Britain plans? It means that there is an emphasis why various countries entered the war and how it turned into a world war rather than a European conflict. Kershaw delivers his thoughts with plenty of convincing evidence to back it up. As always with Kershaw, the writing style is a little long-winded and overly complex, but this is still worth persevering with.


Murrayball: How he Gatecrashed the Golden Era (90 Minutes Shorts Book 4)
Murrayball: How he Gatecrashed the Golden Era (90 Minutes Shorts Book 4)
Price: 1.02

4.0 out of 5 stars Path to tennis success, 18 Dec 2013
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Andy Murray is without doubt the best British tennis player of the past half century. How he managed to rise to the top is the topic of this short book. And it is quite short - although the title suggests that it should take up 90 minutes of your time, I polished it off in about 30. Written after Murray won the Olympic gold medal and US Open but before he won Wimbledon, Hugh MacDonald takes us through Murray's childhood and career so far. There isn't anything particularly new or stunning that wasn't known before, but it is a very reasonable and readable account of Murray's rise to the top.


A.D. 500: A Year in the Dark Ages: A Journey Through the Dark Isles of Britain and Ireland
A.D. 500: A Year in the Dark Ages: A Journey Through the Dark Isles of Britain and Ireland
by Simon Young
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Time Traveller's Guide meets Horrible Histories, 17 Dec 2013
Sources about the Dark Ages - or the early middle ages if that's your preference - are few and far between. Simon Young has attempted to get round that problem by introducing a fictional element to his history of Britain and Ireland in the sixth century. The premise is that a delegation of the Byzantine Greeks has travelled to Britain and their experiences are recounted in this book. It's all based on fact as much as possible, but Young introduces the fictional journey and encounters to make the history more readable and accessible. On the whole, it works. Young chooses to avoid the minutiae ("I find such details intolerably boring", he explains at the end) in favour of the quirky, nipple-sucking, rude-riddle antics of the natives. There's a risk that it descends into Horrible History for Adults at times - I'd have preferred a few more of the intolerably boring minutiae rather than another imagined death of a Byzantine - but on the whole, it doesn't cross the line into historical fiction. Personally, I prefer the more academic approach of Ian Mortimer's Time Traveller's Guides, but I appreciate that Mortimer also had more source material on his periods than Young. An interesting approach to history.


Gullhanger - Or How I Learned To Love Brighton & Hove Albion
Gullhanger - Or How I Learned To Love Brighton & Hove Albion
Price: 0.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting issues, 17 Dec 2013
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I must admit, I wasn't expecting a huge amount from this book. Many fans have written about a season following their team and most appeal only to themselves, their family and friends and the narrow supporter base within their own club. This book is different. Firstly, it's very well written - the author is a journalist who is used to writing entertaining prose, and it shows. Secondly, there is something a little different to the approach because the author is an an Arsenal fan who adopts his local team, Brighton and Hove Albion, in an attempt to start enjoying football again. The theme is a good one which has since been repeated - I stumbled on this book after reading Orientation by Adam Michie, which covers similar issues. On the whole, this is a cheap and interesting approach and it doesn't matter that the subject matter is now a little dated.


In the Heart of the Sea: The Epic True Story that Inspired 'Moby Dick'
In the Heart of the Sea: The Epic True Story that Inspired 'Moby Dick'
by Nathaniel Philbrick
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.69

5.0 out of 5 stars Master storyteller, 16 Dec 2013
I didn't hold out great hopes for this - a seafaring narrative that purported to tell the story of the real Moby Dick. However, I was as gripped by this book as any non-fiction has held me all year. Philbrick captures just the right amount of detail when describing the voyage of the whaler Essex, the attack by a sperm whale and the weeks the crew spent on-board the small whaleboats-turned-lifeboats on the open ocean as they hoped for rescue. The whaling industry and nineteenth-century seafaring are explained to help the reader understand what is going on, without getting lost in extraneous padding. Well done Nathaniel Philbrick for writing such a riveting adventure like a master storyteller.


The Crew
The Crew
Price: 0.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good page-turner, 16 Dec 2013
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This review is from: The Crew (Kindle Edition)
I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised by this. I wouldn't normally chose any kind of sport-related fiction because they are usually badly written, but this was a decent page-turner with good characterisation and a plot that kept me interested throughout. This isn't exactly a feel-good book, there is plenty of casual violence and plenty of bad language, but as an example of hooligan fiction, this is the best of the genre. And the fact that it's free helps too!


1356
1356
by Bernard Cornwell
Edition: Paperback
Price: 3.85

5.0 out of 5 stars Grail Trilogy revisited, 3 Dec 2013
This review is from: 1356 (Paperback)
After a nine year gap, Bernard Cornwell has decided to return to characters he last wrote about in the Grail Trilogy. Thomas of Hookton, an archer who was the hero of those three books, finds himself in the middle of another squabble over a holy item. Before it was the famous grail, this time the item in question is the lesser-known sword of St Peter. The grail story was continued over three books, this one seems to be a stand-alone story. However, the differences between the Hookton stories are slight compared to the continuity between them - aside from the main character, various side characters from the previous books are reintroduced, and the story is typical Cornwell at his best - a plot that rips along at a decent pace without getting unrealistic or over the top. If you like Cornwell, you'll know what you're getting - and no doubt you'll enjoy it!


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